Monday, June 20, 2016

Pomp and Circumstance

I hope that you had a wonderful Father's Day and graduation weekend. After graduation I finally had a day to relax a bit. I saw some friends, played some golf, and hung out with my dad. I also had my favorite dinner and watched Game 7 with one of my kids while texting with the other. It was a good day.

Graduation turned out to be a great day. This was my fifteenth graduation as a superintendent. Each graduating class is unique. The class of 2016 are a scrappy bunch. More students than usual lost a parent much too soon, some experienced homelessness, some had to overcome language barriers, a couple helped to pay the bills while attending school, and some were the first in their families to graduate high school.

All the while, this class was respectful, determined, kind, and friendly; and it was hard to say goodbye to them on Saturday. My graduation speech can be found here and if you had the opportunity to attend graduation, the student speeches were the best I have heard in all of my years. The musicians were on point as well. It was a great day! Congratulations and best of luck to our graduates!

This week is the final week of classes for our elementary students, our middle school students are wrapping up exams, and a few high school students have some last minute business to attend to. I am going to write one more blog next week and then take a couple weeks off. Don't worry, I will be at work every day, but without students it takes a little longer to have material to write about.

Thank you so much for a great school year and enjoy the week!


Monday, June 13, 2016

The Home Stretch

When I woke on Sunday to the news that there had been a mass shooting at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida I sat in silence and thought "again?!?".  As the day progressed we learned that the shooter pledged allegiance to a terrorist group and it was also noted that he had anti-gay beliefs. My second thought was, "This is the world we are graduating our seniors into next weekend?".

It is disappointing to think that as far as we have come as a nation, we still have to be concerned with events like what happened in Orlando. In a nation where freedom of speech, expression, and choice are all protected by our Constitution, we still face hatred, bigotry, and ignorance. Fortunately, we are a nation that gains strength from adversity, and we will from this tragic event.

I know that I certainly stand strong with all of our LGBTQ students, parents, and faculty, as well as all of our Muslim students, parents, and staff who do not believe in the same ideologies as this cowardly terrorist. I truly believe that the collective strength of our wills will someday rid our nation of such events so that future graduating classes do not have to think about events like these. It WILL happen.

Home Stretch: On the home front we are in good shape with the following activities:

  • at the middle and high schools we are working our way through final exams, 
  • at the elementary schools there are field trips and end of the year activities,
  • construction is about to really ramp up for the summer months. 
  • our incoming kindergarten class is now up to 274 registered students, and 
  • most of our hiring is complete for next fall. 

Swimmers are Academic All-Americans: Congratulations to the seven West Genesee High School athletes that qualified for the Academic All-American honor from the National Interscholastic Swim Coaches Assoc. (NISCA):  Kaitlin Dunning, Rebecca Kanoza, Jack Barrett, Daniel Pesci, Colin Riley, Victoria Lee, and Emily Green. To receive this honor, there is an application process and to qualify for this award students must: have a minimum GPA of 3.750 on a 4 point scale, or 93.7500% of the grade scale your school uses for 7 semesters (non-weighted); be a graduating senior; and have lettered in school program in swimming, diving, or water polo in their senior year. What a great accomplishment!

Runners Set Records: Over the weekend our outdoor track team members established some new school records at the NYS Division 1 Championships. The girls 4X800 relay team placed 4th setting a new school record; the girls 4X400 relay team placed 15th with a new school record; and Carly Benson placed 7th in the 800M also setting a new school record. David Leff ran his best time of 4:17:35 and placed 6th in the 1600M. Congratulations to our runners for keeping our name out there.

Also, congratulations to all of our spring teams for receiving Team Scholar Awards. This means that each team had a combined academic average of at least 90%.  A few teams inched toward 97%. Impressive!

Thanks and have a great week!


Monday, June 6, 2016

Everyone Matters

End of Year Receptions: I had a really tough time getting through our retirement reception without showing my sadness for the "brain drain" and overall superior role models that we are about to usher into retirement at the end of the year. Every retirement "class" is special to me, and this "class" in particular included a lot of people who really helped me to get off to a good start at West Genesee; I wish them all well!

Equally emotional was the Fine Arts Reception. The students have done a tremendous job removing the Fine Arts vs. Athletics stigma that used to exist. There are really positive and strong relationships between students and all of our staff taking place at the high school.

Our Fine Arts program is always very successful. When we get a chance to celebrate success and each of our staff has an opportunity to say a few words about the students, you can really hear the genuine care that exists. Congratulations to all of our Fine Arts awards recipients and especially to Madeline Shuron, who was named the Best Overall Musician for 2016!

Although our community is still getting to know our new Executive Principal, Mr. Morton, those in attendance were treated to a very powerful speech. He talked about his ties to music and his feelings about our District from the perspective of someone coming in from the outside. This is a home run in my book!

Testing for Lead: You might remember us announcing that we were going to test for lead in the water in each of our buildings. We did, and everything came back normal and below the level of concern. These levels will be even lower once the capital project is completed because we are changing out nearly all of the "bubblers", which are the main guts of water fountains, and a source of lead.

Questions from the Community: During the budget vote I had a chance to interact with hundreds of community members. Some community members inquired as to what our bathroom procedures are for transgender students. At the time of the vote, President Obama had just issued a directive which several states in the south are fighting. It stated that transgender students can use the restroom that they gender identify with. The issue was trending on Facebook until a child made his way into a gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo and the gorilla was killed. Now that is trending.

I am a very inclusive person, and our District is very inclusive. We have a very active LGBTQ club in our high school, and we have had openly transgender students for the past three years. As I would expect, the students and staff have been very accepting of one another, and we have been very sensitive to the feelings of everyone.

Three years ago, our buildings and grounds began to establish single restrooms in each building. We call them community restrooms and they are available in conjunction with our standard boys and girls restrooms. Also, in our capital project, our locker rooms are being reconstructed to include more privacy for ANYONE, should they need it or want it. At the end of the day, we have been able to meet the needs of ALL of our students, in any combination of ways. We will happily continue to do so. We are proud of ALL of our students; and we as people are ALL different, and in my opinion, that is what makes life great.

School Year Winds Down: Speaking of being proud, this week we have the senior high Academic Awards and the Athletics Reception.  All good stuff. Time to finish my graduation speech as graduation is just two weeks away!

Enjoy the week-